Monday, November 5, 2012

2012 National Survey discussion - Week #1

Today’s Answer

From the National Survey: A Planning & Assessment Coordinator from a Technical College asks: “What is the one best question to ask of all students?

Bending the rules a bit here, but since the respondent did not specify this question to be fixed choice or open-ended, I’ll suggest one of each, both “best” for different purposes:

1. "Would you recommend this instructor to your friends or colleagues?” (Alternately: “Would you recommend this COURSE to your friends or colleagues?”)
I prefer a 4-point forced choice scale (Definitely Yes, Probably Yes, Probably No, Definitely No) but could also use the 11-point Net Promoter Score format.  If the latter, be sure to preserve the actual numeric responses so can have a mean rating in addition to the usual 3 categories (promoters, detractors, passives).  The mean rating will provide much richer information.

    2. "What is the one question you did not get the opportunity to ask of your instructor?
This question never fails to yield interesting material.  We use it on the “one minute survey”, which is given multiple times each term.  This is most effective if instructors can respond to these questions while the class is still in session to ensure students that their feedback was heard.

Today’s Question

From the National Survey: A Chief Academic Officer from a private college in the Northeast asks: “Do you involve faculty in the ongoing administration/supervision/oversight of your course evaluation system?

In discussions with colleges, it is usually assumed that this IS going on: that faculty are distributing and promoting, reminding students, and have some level of control over the process.  But is that not the case at your institution?  Aside from the ubiquitous situation where a handful of instructors tune out and do not participate, are your faculty fully involved, or does the evaluation process occur outside of the classroom and outside of instructor oversight?  I have seen several unfortunate scenarios where schools drive students to the school portal, where they have to click through several layers to arrive at the evaluation form.  Faculty become removed from the process, resulting in lower response rates and less meaningful student comments.

Today’s Concern

From the National Survey: A respondent writes (paraphrased):  “Some faculty give class-wide incentives to complete the online evaluation forms (e.g., if 70% of students fill it out, all students get bonus class credit).  Other faculty see this as a “bribe”.  Our university policy is silent on this issue, although I know other institutions forbid it...”

What do you think of the practice of anonymously tracking student response rate and then rewarding the class as a whole for levels of participation in the evaluation process?  Is this practice welcomed or prohibited at your school?  Share your answers this week. 


  1. First you would have to ask yourself the purpose of grading students, then decide if offering the entire class bonus credit would interfere with that purpose.

    The purpose of providing a class bonus credit as an incentive for completing the course assessment can be an effective way to allow students to encourage their peers to complete the assessment.

    There are many "bribes" used by faculty that have nothing to do with extra credit, so what about the pizza brought to class on the day of the assessment?

    We have suggested that faculty provide the entire class bonus points when a certain response rate has been reached. We do advise that if this method is going to be used, faculty include a description of it in the syllabus rather than tack it on as an afterthought during the administration period.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, ltb. I think of incentives in terms of course-focused vs. non-course-focused (clever, huh? Need to think of better wording on those…) Your example of pizza is clearly in the latter category. But if we can explain to students that evaluating the instructor is a critical component of the course, much like quizzes or labs or participating in discussions, then the “bonus credit” makes good sense: they are getting points because evaluation is part of the course.

    I think that’s the primary reason lotteries and giveaways eventually fail to produce higher response rates is tying participation in evaluations to some external reward or possibility of a reward. That pulls evaluation further away from the fabric of the course as if it is some add-on and not a key piece of the educational experience. Your point about including this information apriori in the syllabus is consistent with the course-focused route. Thanks for the great input!


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